Defining boundaries and establishing trust and respect
How do you define boundaries and use communication skills that will establish a trusting and respectful relationship?
What is your role?
It is very important that you are clear about your role and the legal basis of your agency’s involvement with that client when you are working with a client .
For example, if you are working with a client and you are concerned about their safety you will need to:
- Identify the person in your office who has the authority to take action. (It could be you or your supervisor.)
- Ensure that the statutory agency is contacted through the correct procedure to provide the necessary information for appropriate action to be taken.
Having a clear understanding of what you can and cannot do enables you to communicate this clearly to your client and significant others. It helps to avoid misunderstandings, breakdowns in communication and unreal expectations being placed on you and the client.
As a community and disability service worker, you are likely to be spending a lot of time with your clients so you need to remember that, whilst you are part of the client’s support network, and probably a very important part, you are not a friend.
To be effective in your work, you need to be clear about your role and boundaries and be able to get this across to the client. The following considerations may be useful.
- Identify the information you need to know.
- Only seek the information you need, not what you would like to know.
- Be clear with them about why you need the information.
- Be clear about the system you are part of. Let the client know what you can and cannot offer.
- Be aware of your own limitations as a person and a worker.
- Establish ground rules about your working relationship with the client from the outset, depending on the culture of your organisation.
- Be aware of your own feelings about the client and how those feelings may affect your working relationship with them.
- Be consistent with ground rules and applying boundaries.
Many people have attempted to clarify this issue of boundaries through the development of guidelines for workers and clients, such as:
- codes of ethics
- manuals of practice.
Remember that, without information, clients will not know what they need to do or how they can participate in any planning aimed at resolving their issues or at supporting them so they can function effectively independently of service providers.
They depend on you to provide them with this information, to empower them in the process. It is very important that this information is presented to the client in simple, clear language without jargon and in a manner that they feel comfortable with.